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Hearts Ablaze

“Were not our hearts burning within us…?” they asked each other. It is one of my favorite events in the entire Bible, high on the list of “wish-I-was-there” moments. The risen Christ had appeared to the two men as they traveled the seven miles from Jerusalem to Emmaus, and as the three of them walked the road together, Jesus “explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.”1 When they finally recognized Him, “he disappeared from their sight,”2 and with hearts ablaze, they immediately trekked all the way back to the city to testify to the disciples about His resurrection.

There is a vision that likewise burns in human hearts—“A great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb,”3 and the coming time when “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.”4 It ignites our passion and calms our fears. It illumines our path and overshadows our past. It summons our trust and outshouts our doubts. It beckons us, “Come!”; it calls us to rest. And it aligns our steps today with what will be forever.

The Bible tells us that we who live by faith are “foreigners and strangers on earth,”5 and we long for “a better country—a heavenly one.”6 “Our citizenship is in heaven,” writes Paul, “and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”7 There, we are “no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household.”8 This is who we are, and this is our home; yet we are here. Then how does our current citizenship in a Kingdom yet to come guide us in the here and now? We regard people not by their earthly worldviews that divide, rather we engage them in the truth of Christ who would unite us in Himself. We stake our wellbeing not in flawed leaders of this age—people are people, after all—rather we live in the peace and confidence of Him who remains sovereign above them. Remembering life in darkness, we live as “children of light.”9 As Kingdom citizens in this foreign land, we do here what we can only do here—we point to freedom in a Kingdom yet to come. Yes, Lord, Thy Kingdom come.

Father, we live in your Kingdom, even as we wait for it to come. Grace us to extend the grace we have received and to share the living hope in which we now hope, that people would live freely in your presence. We pray in the name of the King. Amen.

1 Luke 24:27
2 Luke 24:31
3 Revelation 7:9
4 Revelation 11:15
5 Hebrews 11:13
6 Hebrews 11:16
7 Philippians 3:20
8 Ephesians 2:19
9 Ephesians 5:8

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The Present Photo of a Future Pose

“Heaven must receive him until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets.”—Peter, speaking of the risen Messiah (Acts 3:21)

As Jesus neared Jerusalem, the crowds thought the Kingdom of God was about to “appear at once,”1, so He righted their expectations through the parable of “a man of noble birth [who] went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return.”2 Though “his subjects hated him,”3 the man was made king as planned and returned home until a future time when his rule would become complete—his faithful subjects rewarded and all kingdom-resistance purged from his presence. The nobleman had become king, and his complete reign ultimately came.

Martin Luther explained the coming of God’s Kingdom occurs in two ways: here in time and forever as it is unveiled in eternity. Though no human mind can possibly conceive what God has prepared for those who love him,4 what we do know about the coming Kingdom ignites our spirits in hope and unites our hearts in awe. At that time, the kingdom of the world will become the kingdom of God,5 and His rule will be complete. Satan who deceives us and accuses us will be “thrown down.”6 Though the vision exceeds the confines of our imagination, we will see a new heaven and a new earth where God dwells with us, and the way things are in this world will be no longer.7 “Nothing impure will ever enter”8 this Kingdom, neither sin, nor an evil one to tempt us to sin, nor the guilt and shame that follow. Yet perhaps the most stirring picture is that of a people overflowing with joy and unbridled in praise—“a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb … crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’”9

This is where we are going; this is what awaits us. It is the perfect present photo of a future family pose. This written promise lives and leaps off its pages, filling us and inspiring us now to align every part of our being with the truth of what most assuredly will be. Then as citizens of the peaceful Kingdom of God living as exiles in the hostile kingdom of this world, there is purpose for us here and opportunity that exists only for the short time we remain. So we pray …

Our Father in heaven, your Kingdom comes; nothing will stop it. Then may it come to us and flow through us, that we may live forever among the countless made righteous in Christ. We look to the day when we gather as one in your presence; let this vision guide us now. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

1 Luke 19:11
2 Luke 19:12
3 Luke 19:14
4 1 Corinthians 2:9
5 Revelation 11:15
6 Revelation 12:9, 10
7 Revelation 21:1-4
8 Revelation 21:27
9 Revelation 7:9, 10 ESV

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3D Glasses for a 3D World

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.”—1 Corinthians 13:12 ESV

It’s crazy, isn’t it? How is it that we who gratefully delight together in the love of God, and in whom deeply resonate His unifying Word and Spirit of truth, can easily turn on each other in disharmony and division? Whatever the matter of contention, or even its degree of importance, the “e pluribus” within us can send the “unum” about us packing pretty quickly. Fondness freezes, bonds break, and we’re left to wonder—or to justify—what just happened, for when we understand and engage life solely through empirical means of knowledge and worldly ways of thinking, it is like wearing 2D glasses to a 3D movie—we miss the big picture. The authorities and ideologies of this world are familiar enough to us, yet we exist, also, in one of two realms of a different dimension. It is important we know this, and it matters which one.

To the question, “What is the Kingdom of God?” Martin Luther answered: “God sent His Son Jesus Christ, our Lord, into the world to redeem and deliver us from the power of the devil, and to bring us to Himself, and to govern us as a King of righteousness, life, and salvation …”1 Today’s sound-bite-friendly version might read: God’s kingdom is this—Jesus came to redeem us, deliver us, draw us, and govern us. This He has accomplished, for while we once “followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient,”2 we instead rest our soul and rejoice in this: “[the Father] has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”3 The Kingdom has come, and we who are in Christ live securely forever under His power and authority.

Why then, our ready regression into old ways of division? While the Kingdom has come and “our citizenship is in heaven,”4 we still struggle against the rulers, authorities, powers of this dark world and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”5 The Kingdom of God is here, yes, but we look to a day when the “kingdom of the world [will become] the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ.”6 We are citizens of heaven living as strangers in a rebellious and tempting realm, so God sends us His Spirit “to illumine and strengthen us in the faith by His power.”7 His Kingdom is here, and in this confidence we wait for His Kingdom to come.

Our Father in heaven, you are holy. Come today in your Spirit to prevail among us, that we would live in amid the kingdom of this world as people of the Kingdom of your Son. In His name we pray. Amen.

1 “The Large Catechism,” The Book of Concord, accessed June 30, 2020, http://bookofconcord.org/lc-5-ourfather.php
2 Ephesians 2:2
3 Colossians 1:13, 14
4 Philippians 3:30
5 Ephesians 6:12
6 Revelation 11:15
7 “The Large Catechism.”